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Orange Leaf aims for February opening with frozen treats, community values

A new kind of frozen yogurt experience is "coming spoon" to Plymouth Rd. in Ann Arbor. The growing national franchise Orange Leaf combines healthy frozen treats with a commitment to the community, and by Feb. of next year, the Traver Village Shopping Center will be the next community to reap the delicious benefits.
 
"Orange Leaf likes to put their mission out there," says Jason Zalewski, who owns the forthcoming Ann Arbor location along with his partner, Scott McLean. "The want to promote community and families. We'll be heavily involved in the community." 
 
Zalewski and McLean opened a location in Macomb County in June, and are looking forward to growing the business in Michigan. About 300 Orange Leaf Yogurt Stores are now open in the US, and the Ann Arbor location is among 110 stores that will soon be added to the ranks. 
 
"We had a good summer in Macomb, and we're looking forward to moving to the Ann Arbor market," says Zalewski. "We'll be bringing a healthier option for frozen yogurt and custard than is currently available." 
 
Orange Leaf offers 18 different flavors of store-made frozen yogurt every day, including sugar free, peanut free and gluten free options, and more than 50 topping choices. Zalewski says the store will be active in the community, facilitating school fundraisers and donating to local charities. 
 
The 2,600 square foot location is now under renovation and is expect to open in Feb. 2014 with approximately 20 employees. 
 
Source: Jason Zalewski, Orange Leaf
Writer: Natalie Burg

At double the size and staff, Lily Grace blooms on Main St.

As Lily Grace Cosmetics approaches its second anniversary, the small business has twice as much to celebrate as it did a few months ago. In response to feedback from her customers, owner Cyndi Clark has doubled Lily Grace's footprint and added spa services to her cosmetics offerings.
 
"It was the clients," says Clark. "Our clients wanted something like this downtown. We have a lot of great hair stylists who do cuts and color, but no one just does a blow-dry. And some people just want to pop in and get their nails done."
 
Lily Grace formerly took up about 1,000 square feet on Main St. Now, the business has expanded to include the suite's downstairs space for a total of 2,100 square feet. The new space includes areas for massage, hair styling, facials, manicures and pedicures. But these are your ordinary spa services. Clark travelled the world and connected with spa treatment innovators to bring the best of the best to Lily Grace. 
 
"I just wanted it to be special. We're in Ann Arbor for goodness sake," says Clark. "We all travel all over the world, so I wanted to get the best in my profession. It's important that I bring something new to Ann Arbor. That's what my clients want." 
 
The expanded Lily Grace quietly opened for business last week. The staff has grown along with the physical upgrades. Clark has already added four new staff employees to her original five-person staff, and expects to add an additional four spa employees soon. 
 
Clark's eyes continue to be on growth as Lily Grace enters its third year. Her connections in the health and beauty industry have helped her bring a number of exclusive brand names to the Ann Arbor market, and she intends to expand upon those exclusive offerings by Jan. of 2014. 
 

Source: Cyndi Clark, Lily Grace Cosmetics
Writer: Natalie Burg

Grand Rapids' Vertical Media Solution expands into A2 with satellite office

Few things can be more stressful than hunting for a new job. Between the résumé writing and the interview preparation, there are a number of questions job seekers may feel only a clairvoyant could answer. Namely: what does this company want to see from me?
 
Vertical Media Solutions is a small, Grand Rapids based résumé, cv and cover letter preparation company that may not have a crystal ball, but with years in the employment recruitment world, they know better than most what employers are looking for. Now, their services have expanded into Ann Arbor with the opening of a new satellite office on S. State St. 
 
"We're in the recruitment market every day. We're not using things that were taught in college or are simple, cookie cutter ideas, but we're adapting to a changing job market," says Joel Marotti, Vertical Media Solutions. "It's not the most qualified candidate who gets the job, it's the most prepared."
 
Vertical Media Solutions has been helping clients in the Ann Arbor area for some time via phone and online, but growth in the economy has led to growth in the need for their services in the city more frequently. The recently opened satellite office is currently appointment-only, and Vertical Media Solutions staff will frequent the space. 
 
Source: Joel Marotti, Vertical Media Solutions
Writer: Natalie Burg

Samsara Wellness Center to celebrate grand opening in new Ann Arbor studio

After a brief stint as Peaceful Garden Wellness Center, a group of wellness practitioners has grown, moved to a larger space and unveiled their new business under a name meaning "rebirth." Samsara Wellness Center is celebrating their grand opening on Sunday in their new Pauline St. studio. 
 
"It's only about three months since we've been Samsara," says Kelli Sinta, a massage therapist with Samsara. " We've been learning how to work together and have been troubleshooting everyday."
 
The collective of massage therapists, yoga instructors and estheticians began in a smaller office in the same building earlier in 2013. As the group grew to their current size of seven practitioners, they decided to expand into a 1,700 space, to include additional treatment rooms, a yoga studio and childcare space for clients to leave their kids during their appointments. The new space opened on Aug. 1. 
 
"There are a lot of yoga studios around, we've been trying to do some yoga that isn't done in the Ann Arbor area," says Sinta. "We're thinking of offering classes for people with multiple sclerosis, and prenatal and baby yoga. We want to set ourselves apart from the competitive, student serving yoga studios." 
 
The grand opening on Sunday will feature practitioner demonstration, live music by Willo Collective and refreshments. 

Source: Kelli Sinta, Samsara Wellness Center
Writer: Natalie Burg

Ahmo's set to open eighth location in Ypsilanti

Ahmo's Gyros & Deli has been on a steady growth trajectory for the past decade. Now, with a recently opened Brighton location and plans to expand to up to 25 stores over the next five years, its eighth eatery is set to open in Ypsilanti on Dec. 15. 
 
"I'm a strong believer in growing within our hometown," Mohamad Issa, part-owner of Ahmo's Gyros & Deli. "We have always looked at the Eastern, St. Joe's and Washtenaw Ave. as such an important area."
 
Renovations on the 2,200 square foot building have now been underway for a more than a year. After taking the structure down to the walls, Ahmo's is rebuilding to meet the restaurant's high standards for quality and cleanliness. 
 
"You have to keep two things in mind for the customer," Issa says, "the food and the atmosphere. The cleanliness is what makes the difference. We always try to make sure the food is quality and the floors are clean all the time." 
 
Issa anticipates a staff of at least 12 to be employed at the new Ahmo's. He plans to welcome the entire community to the new location up on their opening and become an involved member of the neighborhood. Though the business is looking to grow to 25 stores in the next few years, Issa says Ahmo's plans expand in Michigan with an eye on near-campus locations.  
 
Source: Mohamad Issa, Ahmo's Gyros & Deli
Writer: Natalie Burg

Merit brings fashion with a higher purpose to S. University

There's no shame in looking good. Since former University of Michigan basketball player David Merritt launched his Merit clothing line, that sentiment has never been truer. After all, the stylish clothes and accessories he sells help high school students stay in school and reach for their collegiate dreams. Now, the caused-based retailer is brining its goods and goodness to a physical location on S. University. 
 
"I've been so blessed," says Merritt. "Now, it's important to me to create positive ways for young people to promote themselves. Knowing how many kids aren't given the same opportunities, we're trying to expose these kids to the resources that are out there."
 
Merit opened on Oct. 10 and Merritt and his partner Kuhu Saha are looking forward to a grand opening Nov. 13. The 400 square foot storefront underwent four to five weeks of renovations, including considerable work on the walls and flooring. Now, Merit is looking as good as the clothes and accessories they sell. Merritt hopes the clothes will be a good fit for the university market, as well as their personable service. 
 
"With our cause, and who we are as people, our goal is to be a personal brand," Merritt says. "We want to be able to get out in front of people. We think the campus community is going to be able to help us build a strong presence." 
 
A percentage of everything sold at Merit will fund scholarships for high school students who participate in Merritt's four mentorship and training program, FATE, at Detroit's Jalen Rose Leadership Academy.
 
Merit carries customized shirts, hats and accessories, and will soon being to introduce their cut-and-sew styles of their own design, such as pants, hoodies, shirts and more. The store currently employs a staff of two. Merritt plans to open a second location in Detroit in the next 16 to 18 months. 
 

Source: David Merritt, Merit
Writer: Natalie Burg

Eat the Hub to bring food truck installation to S. University

Alex Perlman isn't trying to create a new Mark's Carts on S. University. He is, however, using the same food cart courtyard concept to open minds and trigger ideas about how food carts can be apart of the campus-area business community in the future. With the six-month pop-up installation, Eat the Hub, Perlman will bring food cart quality food to the neighborhood all winter long. 
 
"The idea is if you don't create opportunities, there are none," says Perlman, who is part owner of both the Beet Box and Cheese Dream food carts. "Last winter I had the realization that as a food cart owner, our off season is when Ann Arbor's population is at its largest, and we weren’t taking advantage of it."
 
Perlman is already at work revitalizing the space, and hopes to have four to six food carts operating there by early Nov. The temporary food cart installation is part of a plant to repurpose and revitalize the lot at 1215 S. University that once housed Pinball Pete's. Unlike Mark's Carts, which encouraging summertime lingering and outdoor eating, Eat the Hub will offer to-go meals, as well as delivery with local partner Eat Blue. 
 
"Our plan is to have a temporary structure over the lot to keep the elements out," says Perlman, who notes that the area is heavily trafficked by pedestrians year-round, "and we're just providing to-go food at people's convenience."
 
Though Eat the Hub is only scheduled to run through April of 2014 the approximately 4,000 square foot lot, Perlman's goal is to create more opportunities for food carts offering freshly made foods in Ann Arbor year round. 

Source: Alex Perlman, Eat the Hub
Writer: Natalie Burg

Vie to join Arbor Hills Crossing with 3,000 sq ft studio, 20 new jobs

Heather Dupuis wasn't actively shopping for a second location for her Vie Fitness & Spa, but as the business mix at Arbor Hills Crossing developed, she saw a perfect opportunity to grow her bustling downtown business.
 
"Café Zola was kind of my trigger point," Dupuis says. "The same clients that go to Vie go to Café Zola, and the same clients also go to Lululemon. I thought this might be a good opportunity for us, and for our clients."
 
While some of her clients already come from the Washtenaw Ave. area, Dupuis also anticipates a new surge of members who may have been put off by dealing with downtown parking in the past. The new 3,000 square foot, second-floor studio will feature plenty of free parking, as well as a rear-entrance.
 
"The back entrance will be very private and discreet," says Dupuis. "It will be nice for people who don't want to look all sweaty coming in and out of the studio."
 
The original Vie location began as 3,000-square foot studio as well a decade ago. Since then, the location has doubled in size. Dupuis says expansion at her forthcoming Arbor Hills Crossing is also an option, though for now, the studio will offer fewer services than the original location, with a focus on Pilates and fitness classes.
 
Dupuis hopes to open the new Vie location by January of 2014. She anticipates the second location will employ a staff of 20. It will be located above the North Face and Anthropologie stores.

Source: Heather Dupuis, Vie Vitness & Spa
Writer: Natalie Burg

Historic Commission approves 3 story addition and renovation of Fourth Ave. building

The future is looking bright for a renovation project intended to light a fire under the development of S. Fourth Ave. in downtown Ann Arbor. The plan to transform the four-storefront building formerly known as Town Center Plaza into a five-and-half story residential and commercial property has gained approval from Ann Arbor's Historic District Commission. 
 
"I believe this project is going to ignite many other opportunities on the Fourth Ave. block," says developer Joe Barbat of Barbat Holdings. "A development of this magnitude will propel many others. However, most importantly, the idea of having residents live in the area offers many extraordinary opportunities." 
 
The redevelopment plan will add three-and-a-half stories, including 32 one- and two-bedrrom residential units to the building. Barbat calls the units "beautifully designed," and each will include a balcony. 
 
The building, now referred to as the Montgomery Building, has been known as the home of Bandito's and the now-closed Eastern Accents. Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase has already signed on to relocate in the building's basement. As for the remaining commercial spaces, Barbat says he's received interest in the spaces but has not signed any leases.
 
"We are hoping to attract casual food users or even a specialty market," he says. "The units are planned for a complete makeover." 
 
A timeline for the project is undetermined, though Barbat hopes to have the project completed by the end of 2014. 
 

Source: Joe Barbat, Barbat Holdings
Writer: Natalie Burg

Ann Arbor SPARK expandswith "stage two" space for growing start-ups

In downtown Ann Arbor, there's a pretty big gap between a start-up with a couple of employees and one that is ready to sign an expensive, multi-year lease for a commercial space. The ever-busy Ann Arbor SPARK Central incubator is now giving their tenants the chance to better bridge that gap with the addition of 2,500 square feet of space dedicated to "stage two" startups.
 
"If I have eight employees, but I know I'm going to have 20 a year form now, it's hard for me to find a commercial lease," says Bill Mayer, business accelerator director for SPARK. "What the expansion allows is space for someone who secures external revenue, has four to five full-time equivalent employees, and they're getting too big for our stage one incubator." 
 
 SPARK Central has long been continually at full capacity. It's original footprint, which is now its stage one area, provides 14 desks for tenants, some of which use  multiple desks. The new stage two space has an open office place and can hold about 30 workers. Two companies are already working in the new space, and Mayer expects two more to move in next week, filling it to capacity.
 
"This falls into one of those good-problem-to-have categories," says Mayer, "but our goal is to have our companies graduate. We don't want them to have a residency with us this longer than 12 to 18 months."
 
Transformation is also afoot at the SPARK East incubator in Ypsilanti, where a large conference room has been renovated into co-working facility. SPARK will continue to hold events and host community groups in the same space.
 

Source: Bill Mayer, SPARK
Writer: Natalie Burg

Water Hill Motors brings auto repairs to Miller Ave neighborhood

After working in the auto repair business in Brighton for five years and studying the trade at Washtenaw Community College, Warren Terrell decided it was time to open his own shop. With a specialization in working on Subaru and Volvo vehicles, Ann Arbor seemed like an idea location.
 
"It's so close to downtown and right in the neighborhood here with houses all around it," Terrell says of his Water Hill Motors on Miller Ave., which opened less than two months ago.
 
The shop offers a broad range of auto repair services, including everything from engine repair to oil changes. In addition to Subaru and Volvo, Terrell says he's worked extensively on American-made cars, especially late-model Mustangs. Though he opened the shop quietly, he says business is already doing well.
 
"For no adverting it's been good," he says. "Last week was slow, but the week before I was at full capacity."
 
Terrell intends to add up to two additional technicians to the Water Hill Motors staff over the next couple of months as his business continues to grow. He hopes to develop a clientele for high performance modifications at the two-bay auto shop.

Source: Warren Terrell, Water Hill Motors
Writer: Natalie Burg

Combined martial arts studio and play place to keep Ypsilanti kids active

From freestyle play to disciplined martial arts instruction, the options for having fun at 1834 Whittaker Rd. in Ypsilanti are aplenty. The pair of businesses now open in the location, The Jungle Gym and Master Lockman Academy, are both owned and operated by a familiar name in local martial arts training, Brandon Lockman of the Dexter academy of the same name. 
 
"We have a really good staff in Dexter and I don't really need to be there as much," Lockman says. "I live in the Ypsilanti area, so I figured it would be nice to have a place here."
 
As an ideal location for a second Master Lockman Academy location happened to have a recently closed play place and café inside, the opportunity to open both businesses presented itself and Lockman took it. After replacing the flooring in the martial arts studio, the dual businesses opened in the 4,200 square foot location on Aug. 15. As it turns out, the two businesses are a great match.
 
"Martial arts is geared toward all ages, but children really benefit," says Lockman. "There is a character development aspect that they walk away with. The two businesses kind of complement each other."
 
Lockman currently employs a staff of six at the new businesses and offers parents wifi, snacks and drinks at The Jungle Gym while the kids play. With a smaller play structure than other similar area businesses, Lockman says parents can rest easy having a direct line of sight on their kids at all times. What's more, the padded equipment makes it easier on parents' knees so they can get in on the fun too. 
 
During non-class times at the Lockman Master Academy, birthday parties and special events may be held in the studio adjacent to the play area. Lockman says he hopes to offer character development camps for kids next summer. 
 

Source: Brandon Lockman, The Jungle Gym and The Master Lockman Academy
Writer: Natalie Burg

$5M hotel and restaurant renovation unveiled at Ann Arbor Holiday Inn

After a year and $5 million worth of investment, the Holiday Inn on Plymouth Rd. in Ann Arbor looks and feels like a whole new place. 
 
"We literally touched every surface in the hotel," says Joe Sefcovic, general manager for the Holiday Inn Near the University of Michigan. "We completely remodeled the exterior of the hotel, as well as inside."
 
Renovations extended into every guest room, a completely refurbished lobby, including a 24-hour pantry store and business center, a newly renovated ballroom and more. 
 
According to Sefcovic, the renovations were inspired by the beginning of the hotel's third 10-year agreement with Holiday Inn. 
 
"They came in and told us some of the things we needed to do," says Sefcovic. "We took that opportunity to say, 'What kind of things would we like to do differently?' We really tailored the hotel to serve the community for the next 10 years." 
 
The upgrades even included a total renovation and rebranding of the hotel restaurant, now called Guy Hollerin’s Ann Arbor Bar & Grill. No longer a sports bar, the restaurant will feature new menu items including healthier dishes as well as gluten free and vegan options. 
 
The Holiday Inn and Guy Hollerin's Ann Arbor Bar & Grill grand re-opening was marked with a blues-themed celebration last week. The festivities continue online, where a contest to name the hotel's new mascot – a wood-carved wolverine – will be open to the public for the next several weeks. 

Source: Joe Sefcovic, Holiday Inn
Writer: Natalie Burg

The Paint Station brings entertainment and education to amateur artists

Entrepreneurs Kendra Wilkins and Katrina Vaughn are out to prove that anyone can enjoy the fun and artistic expression of being a painter – with or without proven art skills. At their new business, The Paint Station, patrons can join classes or arrange painting events with friends during which an artist leads attendees through the process of completing a painting. 
 
"I haven't painted since elementary school," says Vaughn, pointing to a lovely painting she completed in one of her business' classes. "I'm surprised by my own talent. If I can do it, you can too."
 
Though not artists themselves, Wilkins and Vaughn know a thing or two about business and teaching. Wilkins has taught business marketing for Detroit Public Schools and in Ann Arbor, and Vaughn currently teaches social studies for Ann Arbor Tech High School. 
 
"Teaching economics, I talk to the kids about the economy and business," says Vaughn. "Instead of just talking about it, I thought we should do it ourselves." 
 
The Paint Station opened above Panera Bread on Washtenaw Ave. on Sept. 6. The partners work with three artists who instruct the classes and parties. People can choose between attending a pre-scheduled class in which the painting has already been chosen, or, if scheduling a private event, they may select a painting from The Paint Station gallery. 
 
Wilkins and Vaughn hope the Ann Arbor area finds the paint studio to be a fun place to create and make memories. Their private events are ideal for girls' nights out, team-building sessions for businesses and family outings. Eventually, the pair would like to expand to multiple locations and franchise their business. 

Source: Kendra Wilkins and Katrina Vaughn, The Paint Station
Writer: Natalie Burg

Unique healing and health experiences offered at Shakti Yoga and Massage

A new business on Fourth Ave. is bringing a new kind of yoga and massage services to downtown Ann Arbor. Shakti Yoga and Massage specializes in massage for spinal injuries and desk workers, as well as incorporates community outreach into their business. 
 
"It's been going really well," says co-owner Leah Kasle of the new business. "Our yoga classes are growing. We just did a Groupon, and I had a quite few people buy massage packages right after using it."
 
A former massage therapist for the University of Michigan, Kasle partnered with yoga instructor Nicole Teufel to expand her clientele. They were drawn to the 1,300 square foot space on Fourth Ave. after looking for about six months. 
 
"We got really lucky when we found this space," Kasle says. "It is a little bit small for Nicole's student body, but it has a storefront, and it's on a first floor."
 
Kasle's massage techniques focus on spinal and rotator cuff injuries, as well as aches and pains common among those who work at desks for long periods of time. Two additional massage therapists and one additional yoga instructor work for Shakti Yoga and Massage.
 
The studio celebrated its grand opening two weeks ago. In addition to massage and yoga classes Shakti Yoga and Massage offers free self-defense classes for women in need.

Source: Leah Kasle, Shakti Yoga and Massage 
Writer: Natalie Burg
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